Novak Djokovic supports WTA's Peng Shuai tournament stance, Casper Ruud's remarkable run - ATP Finals Diary
In her latest tour diary from the ATP Finals, Reem Abulleil reports on Novak Djokovic backing the statement from the WTA on Peng Shuai. The WTA has said that it will consider pulling out of tournaments held in China until the missing player's safety is assured. There is also time to chat about Casper Ruud.
Peng Shuai durante l'edizione 2020 degli Australian Open
Djokovic backs WTA threats to pull China operations
Not long after his straight-sets blitz of Cameron Norrie in Turin on Friday night, Novak Djokovic made some strong statements in support of WTA CEO Steve Simon, who said the women’s tour was willing to pull out its operations from China if verified evidence of Peng Shuai’s safety and wellbeing is not provided.
Peng Shuai has not been heard from ever since she went public with allegations of sexual assault against a former Chinese government official earlier this month.
While the ATP has released two statements about the matter so far, no comments were made regarding the actions the men’s tour would take, should the situation remain unresolved.
“I support the statement of WTA as an organisation and also their president absolutely,” Djokovic said on Friday.
Image credit: Getty Images
“The whole community, tennis community, needs to back her up and her family, make sure that she's safe and sound because if you would have tournaments on the Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little bit strange. I do understand why WTA has taken a stance like that.”
The PTPA, an association co-founded by Djokovic that is meant to unite the players and increase their negotiating power within the sport, put out a statement on Thursday “advocating for independent evidence confirming the safety and location of WTA player Peng Shuai”.
“We must unite and be willing to take action unless corroborated evidence is provided to the world about Peng’s wellbeing,” continued the statement.
Asked what those actions might be, Djokovic said: “We don't know what it means fully because this is such a recent situation that occurred. We don't know enough.
“The actual meaning behind that statement and the message from PTPA is that we must stand together. Whether it's a male or female player, whether it's one player or more players, it's necessary.
“It's important because this is horrifying. I mean, a person is missing. She was No.1 in the world recently in doubles, one of the most well-known Chinese tennis players. China is a huge country. It's a very important part of the world especially for WTA. They have many tournaments there. This is necessary for us to take whatever actions.
“I heard just now that the WTA is willing to pull out from China with all the tournaments unless this is resolved. I support it 100 percent”.
Doubles world No.7 Nicolas Mahut was one of the first players to take to social media to voice his support for Peng.
Nicolas Mahut et Pierre-Hugues Herbert lors du Masters de Turin en 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
“The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA's problem. We are all concerned,” the Frenchman tweeted, along with the hash-tag ‘#whereispengshuai’, which has been trending on Twitter for the past two days.
Mahut, who advanced to the doubles semis alongside his compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert at the ATP Finals, is waiting to hear from ITF president David Haggerty.
“I think Steve Simon showed great leadership on this situation,” Mahut said on Friday.
“I really appreciate his statement. I think the ATP followed very fast. I'm pretty sure they will walk on the same path. That means if we don't have any news, if the situation is still the same, I think ATP would be on the same path as WTA.
“Personally I think that's what we should do. Personally, I won't play in China if the situation is the same. But we have to be united. The president of ITF, he didn't say anything. I'm expecting him to do like Steve Simon. Well, I hope he will very soon.”
An all-No.1 warm-up session
At a tournament like the ATP Finals where there aren’t that many players onsite, it might not always be easy to find the right person to practice with ahead of your match. In preparation for his Green Group clash against left-handed Brit Cameron Norrie, Djokovic opted to warm up with doubles world No.1 Mate Pavic, who, as a lefty, was the perfect man for the job.
In today’s game, where top singles ATP players don’t play doubles too often, it was nice to witness a practice session between a singles No.1 and a doubles No.1 on the ATP tour.
Ruud’s impressive streak
There are many things to marvel at when analysing the progress Casper Ruud has made this season, but one stat that really stands out is the fact that he was won his last 11 consecutive deciding sets, including one against world No.5 Andrey Rublev on Friday that earned him a place in the semi-finals in Turin – on his tournament debut no less.
The No.8 seed suffered two heartbreaking five-set defeats at Roland Garros (third round) and Wimbledon (first round) this year.
Ruud’s response? Well, he hasn’t lost a deciding set since. It’s an impressive streak he was actually unaware of until he was informed by a journalist in his post-match press conference.
Image credit: Getty Images
“It stings a lot to lose deciding sets in a Grand Slam. It's probably the worst loss we have in our sport to lose a three-setter or five-setter. It's something that really stings,” said the 22-year-old Ruud.
“It's not like I told myself I'm never going to lose a deciding setter again because I will have to accept that I will do for the coming years. But since then all the margins have kind of gone in my favour. It's a good streak to have.
“It's been some really close matches that have gone my way. I'm just really happy about it and hope this streak can continue for more matches.
"I think something that really gave me motivation was the loss in Roland Garros. Even though it was tough at the time, it gave me motivation to kind of seek somewhat of a revenge.
“Here this week I've just thought that every point is important, matters, because it goes so fast here, the games can go by fast. If you serve well, it's tough for your opponent to do anything. On big points today I was both playing and serving well.”
The Norwegian, who takes on No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev in the last four on Saturday, is now 14-3 in deciding sets overall this season.
Stars flock to the tennis in Turin
More marquee visitors have stopped by the Pala Alpitour to watch the tennis and meet the players and on Friday, Djokovic caught up with Italian football legend Paolo Maldini, who gifted the Serb an AC Milan jersey.
Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado was in the stands supporting his fellow Colombians, doubles stars Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal, while Italian fencing Paralympic champion Bebe Vio hung out with Jannik Sinner.
Stats of the day
Djokovic has now gone 3-0 in group play for the sixth time in 14 ATP Finals appearances. The Serb swept his group matches en route to the titles from 2012-14, as well as in 2016 and 2018.
Djokovic has swept all six sets of his matches in group play for the third time at the ATP Finals. In 2014 he dropped just nine games en route to the semi-finals, in 2018 he dropped 20 and this week has made it to the last-four stage at the loss of 16 games.
Ruud saved 7/11 break points against Rublev on Friday. His forehand was firing on all cylinders that he unleashed a 173kmph groundstroke off that wing at one point during the match. In total, he hit 34 winners in the contest, including 14 aces.